Oscar Coming

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The Oscars are coming!
While the usual pundits are busy sharpening their predictions and betting on the
biggies -- the Best Actor, Best Director, Best Picture -- I would like to say a
word for the oft forgotten Writing nominations.

By Pen Densham,
award-winning screenwriter



The Oscars are coming!
While the usual pundits are busy sharpening their predictions and betting on the
biggies -- the Best Actor, Best Director, Best Picture -- I would like to say a
word for the oft forgotten Writing nominations. 



Scripts are the seeds of
thought that movies grow from. Not many films get made without them (not ones
you’d like to rest your eyeballs on, anyway).



Writers are like ancient
monks, spending their lives hunkered in lonely cells illuminating movies with
their imaginations. They seldom get the attention they deserve and yet they take
enormous risks with their time and effort.



Maybe, as few as one
screenplay in a hundred gets made. Hollywood often undervalues the writer,
treating them more like a handyman or a plumber, bringing them in to fix a loose
end in a story, like it was a leak. They like giving them explicit instructions
and then they fire the poor scribe when the story doesn’t hold water.




Believe me, I am not
complaining. I chose to be in this business with all its idiosyncrasies both
good and bad. Where else could a guy who left school at 15 write a script with
his partner about Robin Hood and get paid a million dollars?  But, for every winner
like our Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, I have a
shelf of unmade scripts that I’ve invested years into and equally believe in.




As a member of the
Academy, I am sworn to secrecy about my Oscar votes.

Otherwise, men from Price
Waterhouse will pursue me down alleys in Hollywood and beat me with their brief
cases.  But, I can reveal this about
this year’s writing nominees: the big winner is going to be you!



Movies are “Show
Business” with a lot of emphasis on the “business,” as giant corporations come
to own most studios.  The executives
are on the line when they invest tens or hundreds of millions in a story. A
distinctively original movie is hard to justify. And yet that is what the
marketing analysis people tell me audiences yearn for.  For a while it seemed that
we writers
would be forever ordered to Xerox last year’s hits, instead of being challenged
to surprise and delight audiences with new tales.



Happily, the five Adapted
Screenplay and five Original Screenplay selections point like a compass to the
future of filmmaking, and that future promises to be amazing.



Inception by Chris Nolan, breaks
away from the repetitive comic book brands that the Studios have been clinging
too. It’s a daring experiment to make a mega-budget adventure set inside
dreams. The fact it sold tickets like crazy at the box office means more
creative ideas will follow. That’s good for us viewers.



True Grit resulted in an Oscar
winning role for John Wayne.  This
new adaptation by the Coen brothers is more faithful to Charles
Portis’s book, an entrancing western
about a 14-year-old girl hiring a grizzled, over-the-hill gunman to seek revenge
on the man who killed her father. 
It has some of the best dialogue I have heard in years. And it signals
that a long abandoned genre still has some hi-test oats in the old horse bag.




The Social
Network,
written by Aaron Sorkin, crams more electrifying words in the mouths of its
young actors than a fistful of forties screwball comedies, while taking us into
the mad, inventive, instant-tech world of Facebook. Who would have guessed that
would be commercial?  Another win
for originality.



Not a gun fired, no
chases, no sex! The King’s Speech by
David Seidler is just a wonderful, old-time story. A commoner, from a land
founded by convicts, is the only soul able to help the highest noble in
England overcome disability and
self-doubt at a time of great national crisis.  A delight!



Another script equally
outside the Hollywood box is 127 Hours by Danny Boyle
& Simon Beaufoy. Here, the writers trap
us for that time period with the true-life experience of Aron Ralston, who had
to cut off his arm off to escape from a rock-fall that trapped him for more than
five days. It sounds like it would be gruesome to watch, but really it’s
ennobling to see the courage that anyone of us might have had to summon up to
survive.



The Kids Are Alright
by
Lisa
Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg treats a committed, gay
female couple as a normal family in this impressively warm story about their two
children trying to discover the man who donated the sperm to create them. In a
time when some groups still use gays as a political football, it is so cool to
see the subject treated as just a normal part of the human love
spectrum.



Among the other
heartening, fresh storytellers is the nomination of Toy Story 3, an animated movie
lauded
because it is just so darn enchanting.



And, my personal favorite
script of the year is an underdog outsider movie Winter’s Bone.  This is a
humanistic study of a
courageous, rural teenager trying to hold her family together after her father’s
criminal behavior has brought them to the brink of disaster.  It was made cheaply,
outside the system,
but has received note for its pure, deep dramatic power.



So, who is going to
win?



I can say the expected
Oscar winners are tipped to be The Social Network for adapted screenplay
and Inception for best original
script.



Who did I actually vote
for? I do love underdogs, outsiders and strong female characters.    “Oops, there’s
a guy with a
briefcase… Gotta go!”



About
Pen Densham



Pen
Densham is an active award-winning screenwriter, producer, and director, in
Los Angeles. Pen
and his Trilogy Entertainment partner John Watson are responsible for writing
and producing some of Hollywood's biggest blockbusters, such as Robin Hood: Prince
of Thieves. Pen also
revived both of his all time favorite TV series The Outer Limits and the Twilight
Zone.
He is also an adjunct professor at the University of Southern
California's prestigious School of Cinematic
Arts where he handed out chapters of his book as he
wrote it, claiming he is one of the few teachers who asked students to grade
them!
 

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